Reviewing the 2000 National League MVP Race

In 2000, Jeff Kent hit a robust .334/.424/.596 with 33 HRs and 125 RBIs on the way to winning his first -- and only -- Most Valuable Player Award. It's often been a topic of debate among fans that Barry Bonds -- and his .306/.440/.688 line with 49 HRs -- should have won the MVP award. In addition to Bonds, in 2000 the NL saw very strong years from Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jeff Bagwell just to name a few.

Criteria for winning the MVP award can change between person to person. Some look for the best overall performance, regardless of team record. Others like to take into account how the team performed in relation to the individual season of the player. I tend to treat the MVP award based on best individual performance, so keep that in mind with today's post.

In 2000, which player was worth the most in the National League? That's the question that I'm hoping to answer in today's post using our handy player value graphs. I've taken the top five NL MVP finishers and ranked them by the total amount of runs they've created.

A few quick assumptions:

  1. For offense, I'm using FanGraphs wRAA with a simple multi-year park adjustment. wRAA isn't adjusted by park and we want to put everyone on a equal playing ground for their offensive contributions.
  2. Because I can't get my hands on UZR data for the year of 2000, I'm using Sean Smith's Total Zone ratings. TZ is probably the best way to measure defense for players pre-UZR. You can read more about the system, here
  3. I'm using Tango's latest positional adjustments for each player.
  4. I've set the replacement-level to 22.5 runs per 700 PAs.

Let's get started. First, let's check out the value graph featuring the top five NL MVP finishers -- Todd Helton, Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, Mike Piazza, and Jim Edmonds.

2000nlmvp_medium

Thoughts:

  • Pre-park adjustment, Todd Helton's bat played closer to +80 runs than the adjusted 60 runs it lands at after we take park into account. Still, even after the adjustment, he was the 2nd best hitter in the NL. Both Helton and Bonds were worth +60 runs by hitting alone. That's a good year at the plate.
  • The other thing about Helton is that TZ says he was an absolute vacuum at first base in 2000. His score of +18 runs on defense pushes his overall value past MVP winner Jeff Kent and arguable could-be-winner Barry Bonds.
  • The spread in runs between Todd Helton and 2nd place is only about a half-win, that's not a slam dunk case for an MVP award and it's pretty clear that most voters heavily penalized Helton for playing in Coors. They also probably didn't take into account his terrific defense. Helton finished 5th in the NL and probably should have been a top two -- if not #1 -- finisher. 
  • The Kent vs. Bonds debate for MVP could go either way. They both added about the same amount of value when everything is tallied up. Kent saw much more playing time in 2000 than Bonds did. His PT% of 99% -- based on 700 PAs -- beats Bonds' PT% of 87%. If you want to settle this debate, just flip a coin.
  • If we were voting on production, Jim Edmonds and Mike Piazza would have finished 4th and 5th. You'll notice that I've got Piazza rated as an average defender behind the plate, which could be generous. At most, without the data, I'd call him a -5 run catcher, but I don't have the data -- TZ doesn't do catchers -- so we'll just call him average for now. 

Here's a table ranking of other players in the NL for 2000 that had outstanding years:

Name Park-Batting Fielding Positional-Adj. Replacement Total Runs
Todd Helton 61.50 18 -12.45 22.40 89.46
Barry Bonds 66.23 4 -6.50 19.51 83.24
Jeff Kent 56.82 1 2.48 22.34 82.64
Andruw Jones 30.99 22 2.60 23.43 79.02
Brian Giles 55.65 -2 2.46 22.11 78.22
Sammy Sosa 54.59 7 -7.55 22.66 76.70
Garry Sheffield 60.31 -2 -6.56 19.67 71.43
Jim Edmonds 44.59 2 2.30 20.67 69.55
Richard Hidalgo 45.20 9 -6.90 20.70 68.00
Mike Piazza 40.35 0 9.73 17.52 67.60
Chipper Jones 39.90 2 2.45 22.05 66.40
Jeff Bagwell 54.03 -1 -12.84 23.11 63.30
Valdimir Guerrero 50.73 -3 -6.87 20.60 61.47

Thoughts:

  • Andruw Jones played insane defense in CF in 2000. When you consider his peer group, a +22 run season in CF is just flat out ridiculous. Overall, he's the 4th most valuable player in the NL for 2000. He was worth just shy of +80 runs. 
  • Brian Giles must have pissed off someone, because by total runs he ranks as the 5th best player in the NL in 2000. Yet, he finished 19th in the voting. Only a couple of spots higher than Antonio Alfonseca. Ouch.
  • Richard Hidalgo once had a very promising career. He was on par with Jim Edmonds -- in terms of value -- but he finished 20th in the NL by MVP voting. Hidalgo would tease Astros fans a couple of more times with his potential, but he would eventually wash out from the majors in 2005 at 30-years-old.
  • I was a little surprised to see Sammy Sosa rate as a +7 defender in the OF. An underrated outfielder before he lost a step? UZR hated him most of the time between 2002-07, and TZ shows a similar decline during this time frame. 
  • Mike Piazza finished 3rd in the MVP race but several more players were more valuable. I'm guessing the voters weighed his position a little too heavily when marking their ballots.
  • The win values for these players range from +6-8 wins, that seems about right for MVP candidates.

Closing Thoughts

You could make a pretty good argument for any of the top three for the 2000 NL MVP Award. Todd Helton, Barry Bonds, and Jeff Kent were all deserving. It's pretty amazing that the 2000 Giants team had two legitimate MVP candidates playing on the same roster. In the end, the voters just couldn't get past Todd Helton playing in Coors Field, he should have placed much better than 5th overall.

 

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